In the past week or so the crisis in Australia has become front-page news, however these fires have been raging for months, starting in September of 2019 fuelled by drought, extreme heat and strong winds.
The fires are still raging with 24 people being killed, 1,400 homes destroyed and a landmass approaching 20 million acres or roughly the size of Austria torched. As well as this it is predicted that around 1 billion animals have been killed by these fires, 1,000 of these are Koalas with 80% of their habitat destroyed. Initially, the number of animals killed was put at 480 million, an estimate that came from Chris Dickman, a biodiversity expert at the University of Sydney, last week The Australia Koala Foundation even go so far as to say that the Koala is now ‘Functionally extinct’.
The fact that many people are only now finding out about the scale of the problem in Australia is arguably very shocking, news outlets have done little to help this only recently reporting heavily on the issue or making it front-page news, especially considering the global attention and upset there was when Notre Dame caught fire, with pledges of almost $1 billion to help rebuild it. It is extremely difficult even with all the figures to imagine how much of Australia has been lost to the fires, perhaps knowing that it is more than land lost to the Amazon and California fires combined puts this crisis into perspective.
The fires are so bad that for the first time in Australia’s history troops will be utilised to help deal with a crisis of this nature. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison recently announced 3,000 reserve troops will be deployed to help the raging bushfires across the country, Morrison stated: “We have seen this disaster escalate to an entirely new level,”.
The last Saturday of December saw the skies in southern-eastern areas of Australia reddening and darkening as gusts of wind worsened the blazes. Emergency warnings were issued throughout the day urging residents to leave certain areas. However, in some areas including the Snowy Mountains, people were told it was too late to evacuate and received advice to shelter indoors or in a large clearing or body of water.
This disaster points to the growing global climate crisis, which exacerbated the fires now raging across the country. It is undoubtedly extremely concerning that there are those in power and around the world who still see climate change as an exaggerated issue or worse still, those who deny it completely.
However, there has now been an overwhelming show of support for Australia, with countless charities, individuals and celebrities raising awareness and donating money:
- Kylie Minogue: $500,000 (AUD)
- Chris Hemsworth: $1 million
- Kylie Jenner: $1.5 million
- Selena Gomez: $3 million
- Elton John $1 million
Especially touching was when U.S firefighters arrived at Sydney airport on the 10th of January, they were met with a round of applause and emotional welcome from people who came to greet them. So amid all this tragedy if anything there is still hope to be had in the goodness of people, it is unclear how much longer Australia will have to battle with these fires but seemingly what can be counted upon is that they will have support in doing so.